Category Archives: weather

Encelia Eruption

Bush sunflower (Encelia californica) along the Secret Trail in Calabasas

The bush sunflowers (Encelia californica) above are along the Secret Trail in Calabasas. While there have sometimes been showy displays of bush sunflowers along this trail, I don’t recall any quite as prolific as this. There were many other wildflowers as well (slideshow).

It’s been another bizarre rain year. While California water managers worry about water supplies, chaparral plants in the Santa Monica and Santa Susana Mountains seem quite happy with this season’s rainfall. There is a lot of new growth and plants appear to be playing catchup from last year’s dismal rain season. From the trail it looks more like an above average rain year, rather than the somewhat below normal rain year actually recorded.

A Lot of Bluster, But Not Much Rain

Clouds associated with an upper level low north of Los Angeles

Yep, that was a rumble of thunder. It was a blustery, Spring-like afternoon and a storm cell had developed a few miles to the WNW of Lasky Mesa.

Before driving over to Ahmanson I’d checked the weather radar and seen cells circulating counterclockwise around a cold upper level low. Most were dissipating as they moved north to south, out over the Valley. The wildcard was that the upper low was moving southward, and the cells might strengthen.

Convective cell WNW of Lasky Mesa associated with a cold upper low north of Los Angeles
Storm cell WNW of Lasky Mesa.

Again there was a low rumble. The cell didn’t seem any closer, but now I could see additional development to the north and northeast of Ahmanson. I picked up the pace.

There’s nothing like the threat and energy of a thunderstorm to incentivize a runner. All the way back to the trailhead it looked like heck might break loose at any moment.

But it didn’t. It was just starting to rain when I got back to the car, and on the way home the streets were wet. The Cheeseboro RAWS recorded 0.06 inch of rain, as did Downtown Los Angeles (USC).

Even though the Rain and Water Year rainfall totals for Los Angeles are about normal for the date, January and February have seen little rain. Precipitation records for Los Angeles indicate the period January 1 to February 28 will be the fourth driest on record.

The precipitation outlooks for Southern California this March don’t look especially promising, with a typical La Nina precipitation pattern expected for the West Coast.

Some related posts: Clearing Skies at Ahmanson Ranch, Thunderstorm

Trippet Ranch Loop Plus the Santa Ynez Trail

Creek crossing on the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail

I had just waded down a 50 yard stretch of creek where the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail used to be. Three hikers working up the canyon were trying to find a way past the flooded section without getting their boots wet. That wasn’t going to be easy.

Debris at creek crossing in Santa Ynez Canyon.

I had been doing the same thing higher in the canyon. It was a chilly morning, and I had no great desire to soak my shoes in cold water. The usual rock and limb crossings had worked well until the trail ended in a broad area of flowing creek. Once my shoes were wet, it simplified the process.

That the trail was flooded following several days of rain wasn’t that surprising. What was a surprise is that there hadn’t been higher flows and more damaging flash floods in the canyon.

Creek crossing near the Santa Ynez Canyon Trailhead, on Michael Lane.
Creek crossing near the Santa Ynez Canyon Trailhead

Santa Ynez Canyon was the focus of the Palisades Fire, and a large part of the drainage was burned to a moonscape. Burned slopes often amplify runoff from heavy rain, producing damaging flash floods and debris flows. While there was clearly high flows in the canyon, the levels were less than what I’ve seen in similar circumstances, in other burn areas. One possibility is that unburned trees and brush along the streambed higher in the canyon had attenuated the flow.

After doing the out and back on the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail, I continued down to Trippet Ranch and then, like last week, returned using the Musch, Garapito, and Bent Arrow Trails.

One of several sections of the Bent Arrow Trail damaged by slides. January 2,2022.
Section of the Bent Arrow Trail damaged by a slide

There were a number small rock slides, sluffs, and sediment flows along the trails and roads. A couple of people were working on clearing the limbs and small trees that had fallen across the Garapito Trail. The collapsed oak at the bottom of the Garapito Trail had settled, and was easier to get through this time.

The trail that really took it on the chin was the Bent Arrow Trail. Several sections of the trail were damaged by slides.

I usually do the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail as part of the Trailer Canyon – Santa Ynez – Trippet Ranch Loop. Tacking on the trail as an out and back addition to the loop was slightly shorter, but had a little more elevation gain/loss.

Some related posts: Trippet Ranch Loop After the Palisades Fire, Clouds, Canyons and Wildflowers, Running Between Storms on the Trippet Ranch Loop, Go Figure

Clearing Skies at Ahmanson Ranch

Towering cumulus cloud and an oak on a ridgeline

The cumulus cloud towered overhead, its size accentuated by a lone oak on the skyline. An extraordinary series of December rainstorms were finally over. The year 2021 would end with Downtown Los Angeles (USC) having recorded the third highest amount of December rainfall on record.

I was running from the Victory Trailhead of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (aka Ahmanson) to Las Virgenes Canyon. With about 5 inches of rain in the area over the past two days, I was curious to see how upper Las Virgenes Creek was flowing.

Here are a few photos from the December 31st trail run and several other trail runs at Ahmanson over the past couple of wet weeks.

Running Between Storms on the Trippet Ranch Loop

Musch Trail steaming in the early morning sun.
A wet (and muddy) section of the Musch Trail.

Update January 4, 2022. Did the Garapito Trail again this weekend as part of a longer run through Santa Ynez Canyon. The debris from the fallen oak tree was much easier to get through this time. Some people coming down the trail after me had a small saw, and said they were planning to work on it.

Update December 31, 2021. It turns out that a lot more rain was on the way! Los Angeles recorded 9.46 inches of rain this month, making it the third wettest December on record, going back to 1877. This puts Los Angeles at 10.40 inches for the Rain Year to date, which is about 237% of the normal.

It had rained the past three days, including Christmas. Today was the 26th, and Downtown Los Angeles (USC) had recorded nearly 150% of the rainfall normally recorded in December. And more was on the way.

Early morning light on Eagle Rock
Early morning light on Eagle Rock.

I clicked START on my Garmin as I passed the gate at the Top of Reseda. It was about twenty minutes before sunrise. The temperature was around 40 and the eastern sky was brightening with the advancing sun. As I worked up the initial trail to dirt Mulholland, thousands of lights twinkled across the San Fernando Valley.

The chaparral was soaked with overnight rain; and befitting the Holiday season, was ornamented with thousands of silvery water drops.

I took my usual route, turning off Mulholland onto Fire Road #30, and then following it to the Hub. From the Hub, Eagle Springs Fire Road led down to Eagle Springs, then beneath the sunlit face of Eagle Rock to Eagle Rock Fire Road and the top of the Musch Trail. In the Palisades Fire burn area there was some significant erosion along the fire road where the runoff wasn’t controlled.

I’d be doing the Musch Trail later in the run, but for now continued down Eagle Springs Fire Road toward Trippet Ranch.

Erosion along Eagle Springs Fire Road. December 26, 2021.
Erosion along Eagle Springs Fire Road.

Mud — slippery, cake-on-your-shoes mud — isn’t normally much of an issue until past the Musch Trail and on the steeper downhill that leads to the top of the Santa Ynez Trail and Trippet Ranch. Today there were some slippery spots, but it wasn’t too bad. Remarkably, I didn’t see anyone until I reached the Trippet Ranch parking lot.

My return route from Trippet Ranch was mostly on trails, beginning with the Musch Trail. There are usually a few muddy sections on the Musch Trail after a good rainstorm. Today, one wet, muddy section of trail was steaming in the morning sun. Once I was on the steep climb up to Eagle Rock Fire Road, most of the significant mud was left behind.

Oaks along Eagle Springs Fire Road, above Trippet Ranch.
Oaks along Eagle Springs Fire Road, above Trippet Ranch.

At the top of the Musch Trail, I turned left on Eagle Rock Fire Road and worked up past Eagle Rock and over to the top of the Garapito Trail. I run this trail often, and know it well. Winding down through decades-old chaparral, I became lost in thought, immersed in the outdoor experience, and enjoying every aspect of the trail.

That was why it was such a shock when, at the bottom of the mile and a half descent, the trail suddenly ended in a wall of brush.

That couldn’t be. Had I somehow turned onto a use trail? Nope, I was on the right trail.

Garapito Trail blocked by fallen oak. (12-26-2021)
Garapito Trail blocked by fallen oak.

That’s when I noticed the “brush” was the top branches of a large oak. The fallen tree had COMPLETELY blocked the trail. I took a quick look around for an alternate route and didn’t see anything obvious. Working through the mishmash of foliage and branches was a bit like bushwhacking through dense manzanita. With some effort, and some rock climbing moves, I eventually emerged on the other side of the mass. The fallen tree was part of an old, multi-trunked oak that has been collapsing over a period of weeks.

The remainder of the run was uneventful, but enjoyable. Continuing up the Garapito trail to Fire road #30, I crossed the fire road and picked up the Bent Arrow Trail. This connects to dirt Mulholland, which leads west to the Top of Reseda.

Some related posts: Trippet Ranch Loop After the Palisades Fire, Trippet Ranch Wildflower Run, The Heavenly Ranch in the Hills

Catalina From Saddle Peak

Catalina From Saddle Peak

Another spectacular morning for a Southern California trail run.

The temperature on Saddle Peak was in the high-60s, with light winds out of the north.

The distance to Two Harbors from Saddle Peak is about 45 miles.